The prolactin (PRL)-releasing activity of the novel prolactin-releasing peptides (PrRPs) was studied in vivo using male and lactating female rats. Whereas thyrotropin-releasing hormone effectively stimulated PRL and thyrotropin release as expected, PrRP in both animal models neither stimulated PRL secretion nor affected the release of other pituitary hormones. At the anterior pituitary level, in situ hybridization (ISH) histochemistry and Northern blot analysis revealed significantly higher expression levels of PrRP receptor (UHR-1) transcripts in female compared to male rats but not between lactating and nonlactating animals. By ISH, expression of UHR-1 mRNA was also detected in the intermediate lobe but not in the posterior pituitary. UHR-1 transcripts were also readily detectable in various hypothalamic brain areas whereas expression of PrRP mRNA was restricted to the ventral part of the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus but was not detected in neuroendocrine hypothalamic nuclei (e.g. PVN, SON). We thus assume that in the central nervous system, PrRP may likely have functions as a neuromodulator. However, together with the detailed cytochemical studies of various investigators that failed to detect PrRP-immunopositive nerve endings in the median eminence, our results strongly suggest that the hypothalamic PrRPs cannot be classified as hypophysiotrophic factors.

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